Notes: Bullpen hitting stride

Notes: Bullpen hitting stride

ST. LOUIS -- After some very high-profile hiccups, the Cardinals bullpen seems to be finding its stride. St. Louis relievers have tossed nine scoreless innings over the past four games, striking out five against four hits and one walk.

Perhaps more tellingly, the relievers have been pitching in the situations intended for them. Jason Isringhausen has been closing out close games, while Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright have been getting leads from the starters to Isringhausen.

It remains to be seen whether the St. Louis bullpen is as good as it's been in recent years. But the past several days definitely count as progress.

"I think they're starting to feel good about how they're throwing," said manager Tony La Russa. "We've shown the kind of depth that can pay off for us.

"They've all settled in where they can pitch any time in the game. That's the most realistic way to look at it."

Isringhausen said that as the games have gone on, Redbirds relievers have gotten a better idea of when and how they'll be used.

"I think everybody's getting spotted where they're going to be, and I think that makes everybody a little more comfortable," Isringhausen said. "When everybody's got a role and everybody knows what they're going to do when they come to the park, it makes life easier."

Edmonds hits second: In a rare assignment, Jim Edmonds returned to the No. 2 spot in the batting order on Monday against Pirates lefty Oliver Perez. The Cards have struggled to get production from the No. 2 hole, with batters hitting a combined .237/.272/.276 (average/on-base/slugging) in that spot entering Monday.

Juan Encarnacion has seen the majority of those at-bats, with chances also going to So Taguchi, John Rodriguez and Hector Luna. Edmonds got 128 at-bats there last season, hitting .250/.349/.508.

"It's just a one-day thing," La Russa said. "He won't be there tomorrow. It's just a good spot for him, with Albert behind him."

As for why batters haven't produced in that spot, the manager simply said: "Guys haven't taken advantage of it."

Gall on the way? John Gall has been scorching the ball for Triple-A Memphis this season, with a .387/.427/.560 line entering Monday. He's walked six times and struck out just four in 75 at-bats. Meanwhile the Cardinals have seen limited production in left field.

According to the manager, that doesn't necessarily mean a move is imminent, but at the same time, Gall is definitely on the radar.

"I don't think it's healthy for members of our club to be looking over their shoulders all the time," La Russa said. "This league is tough enough to play in. But you're always paying attention to what's going on in your organization. So there isn't anybody doing good or bad that's not getting attention. But as far as the guys on our club, I'm not going to make comments like, 'Gall will be here soon and one of these guys will be gone.'"

In other Minor League news, the Cardinals purchased the contract of Timo Perez from the Reds, and released first baseman Juan Diaz. Perez will play at Memphis.

Pujols' glove: According to John Dewan, the author of the recent book The Fielding Bible, no Major League first baseman was better at digging out throws last year than Albert Pujols. Dewan, in his "Stat of the Week" last week, wrote that Pujols saved 42 bad throws by his infielders last year -- Derrek Lee was a distant second with 23.

La Russa noted that there are "two ways to look at that" -- i.e., that it means there are bad throws to be dug out. Even so, it's a telling number for a player who was only in his second season as a full-time first baseman.

"(Infield coach Jose) Oquendo has a drill, and they do it on a frequent basis, and I think it really helps him," La Russa said. "It's an example of Albert being willing to work."

La Russa lets loose: Although it was never a secret that La Russa was no fan of the World Baseball Classic, the manager for the most part held his tongue while the event was going on. On Monday, he fully voiced his real feelings about the Classic, which was held for the first time this March.

"I thought it was a bad idea when we started," La Russa said. "The way it turned out I thought was bad. And the consequences are still ahead of us. That's why it pained me for people to be celebrating the Classic as a positive experience. It was only positive in a few places. Overall for Major League Baseball, it was a ... lot more negative than positive."

This date in Cardinals history: On April 24, 1994, the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to beat the Astros, 5-4, at Busch Stadium. Bernard Gilkey's RBI forceout tied the score, and Gilkey came around to score the winning run on a wild pitch by then-rookie reliever Mike Hampton.

Baby 'Birds: Memphis jumped to a big early lead and held on for a 6-4 win over Omaha on Sunday. Prentice Redman had three hits and three RBIs, while Gall rolled on with a single, double, walk, RBI, two runs and a steal. ... Double-A Springfield took out Tulsa, 4-1, behind a strong game from Chris Lambert, and a double, homer and two RBIs from Reid Gorecki. ... Class A Palm Beach rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat Vero Beach, 6-5. Juan Lucena went 4-for-6 and Joe Mather had two doubles, two walks and three RBIs. ... Class A Quad Cities was outslugged, 8-6, by Fort Wayne. Colby Rasmus doubled, singled and drove in a run, and Bryan Anderson added two singles and two walks. Anderson is batting .412.

Lambert is an easy choice for player of the day, as he was simply dominant. The Cards' No. 1 pick from 2004 pitched six shutout innings with two hits and two walks, striking out nine. It was major progress in every way for Lambert, who entered the game with an 8.53 ERA and 12 walks in 12 2/3 innings.

Coming up: Jeff Suppan will try to erase memories of the last time he pitched against the Pirates in a losing effort, when he takes the mound on Tuesday night. Suppan will go against right-hander Victor Santos, who turned in a solid outing in a loss against St. Louis last week at PNC Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT at new Busch.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.